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Nutritional Support for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (CD), according to Lan et al., are characterized by chronic inflammation in intestinal mucosa. There is little information available based on human studies that links nutritional support with inflammatory bowel disease. The authors of this article analyzed the available information about supplements that appear beneficial in healing the gut mucosa. 

The intestinal epithelium acts as a selective barrier, and inflammatory bowel disease can disrupt this important barrier, affecting absorption, mucus production, and enteroendocrine secretion. Intestinal wound healing, according to the linked article, is “dependent on the precise balance of several processes including migration, proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis of the epithelial cells.” Although there are few human clinical studies (more are animal and cell model studies) there is evidence that both macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies may exist in patients who have inflammatory bowel disease. Patients may have malnutrition of proteins, of minerals and vitamins. Following are some points from the article:

  • Arginine, glutamine, and glutamate are noted as amino acids that contribute to mucosal healing in animal studies, as well as threonine, methionine, proline, serine, and cysteine. 
  • Short-chain fatty acids, which are the result of metabolized dietary fiber (grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables), and resistant starch (beans, potatoes, brown rice) are a major source of energy for epithelial cells in the colon
  • Vitamin A deficiency is common in patients with newly diagnosed IBD
  • Vitamin D may decrease intestinal fibrosis, and reduce risk of Crohn’s relapse
  • Vitamin C and Zinc may both help heal epithelial wounds in the colon
  • During the remission phase, some foods may be poorly tolerated, such as dairy
  • During an active flare of IBD, a patient may require enteral nutrition 

The authors conclude that the exact mechanisms by which the various dietary compounds contribute to bowel healing is still unknown. Furthermore, the ability to make clear dietary recommendations is limited by the lack of clinical studies. At a minimum, this information can alert the pelvic rehab provider to discuss the potential benefits of nutrition on bowel health with patients. Many of us are quite comfortable giving advice about drinking appropriate amounts and types of fluid, or eating more whole and less processed foods. We can take our nutritional education a step further by encouraging a patient to discuss healing supplements with a provider and/or nutritionist to best support the healing bowel. If you are interested in learning more about nutrition and pelvic health, you might love our newer course Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist Kansas City in March of next year with instructor Megan Pribyl.


Lan, A., Blachier, F., Benamouzig, R., Beaumont, M., Barrat, C., Coelho, D., & Tomé, D. (2015). "Mucosal healing in inflammatory bowel diseases: is there a place for nutritional supplementation?" Inflammatory bowel diseases, 21(1), 198-207.

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Rectal Prolapse: The Basics

The phrase “rectal prolapse” may be easily confused with the term “rectocele” yet they may be very distinct clinical presentations. A rectocele refers to a prolapse of the posterior wall of the vagina that allows the rectum to bulge forward towards the posterior vaginal wall. This condition occurs most often in women rather than men. A rectal prolapse is a protruding of the rectum itself outside of the anal verge or opening. An overview article published in 2013 in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery provides information about the condition that may assist the pelvic rehabilitation provider with valuable clinical concepts. Prior to becoming a full external prolapse, an internal intussusception may occur (and observed on defecography) and progress to include an external mucosal prolapse. Rectal prolapse may occur with or without other conditions of pelvic organ descent such as a cystocele or uterine prolapse. Although the prevalence of complete rectal prolapse is low, and occurs more often in women or in elderly patients, interference with quality of life may be significant.

Symptoms can include pain, difficulty emptying the bowels, bloody and or mucous discharge, urinary incontinence, and fecal incontinence or constipation. Patients may also complain of a lump or a bulge in the rectum that may or may not improve following a bowel movement. A complete rectal prolapse can be described as a full-thickness protrusion of the rectum through the anus. A more serious consequence of this condition is strangulation of the bowel. Features of a rectal prolapse often include a redundant sigmoid colon, levator ani muscle diastasis, and loss of the vertical position of the rectum, according to the article.

Treatment of a rectal prolapse may include surgery. Prior to surgery, a physical exam, colonoscopy, anoscopy, and possibly manometry and defecography may be completed. The surgical goals are to correct the prolapse, improve any complaints of discomfort, and to resolve bowel dysfunction. Surgical approaches may include abdominal or perineal approaches, minimally invasive versus open surgery, and techniques can include posterior versus ventral and rectopexy with or without sigmoidectomy. For more details about the specific approaches for rectal prolapse repair, see the linked article. The authors of this overview article point out that because “…there is a paucity of data evaluating the effectiveness and appropriateness of the various surgical techniques…”, there is not one single management strategy for each patient.

Nonsurgical recommendations for management of a rectal prolapse include appropriate daily fluid and fiber, suppositories or enemas if needed, biofeedback training, and pelvic floor muscle exercises. A patient may benefit from education in all of these concepts, before and/or following surgery. Pelvic rehabilitation providers are well poised to offer conservative management in these conditions prior to and following any needed surgery.

To learn more about rectal prolapse and related dysfunctions, join Dr. Lila Abbate, PT, DPT, MS, OCS at Bowel Pathology, Function, Dysfunction and the Pelvic Floor this November in New York, NY!

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Visceral Therapy in Rehabilitation

Visceral therapy is increasingly used by manual therapists, and research continues to emerge that attempts to explain the underlying mechanisms of the techniques. A study published in the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies in 2012 reports on the effects of visceral therapy on pressure pain thresholds. Osteopathic visceral mobilization was applied to the sigmoid colon in 15 asymptomatic subjects. Pressure pain thresholds were measured at the L1 paraspinal muscles and 1st dorsal interossei before and after intervention. Pressure pain thresholds at the level assessed improved significantly immediately following the visceral mobilization. The effect was not found to be systemic. Hypoalgesia, therefore, may be a mechanism by which visceral mobilization affects patients who are treated with this technique.

Another research study that aimed to assess the effects of visceral manipulation (VM) on low back pain found that the addition of VM to a standard physical therapy treatment approach did not provide short term benefits. However, when the 64 patients were reassessed at 2, 6, and 52 weeks following treatment, the patients in the group with visceral manipulation were found to have less pain at 52 weeks. The patients were randomized into 2 equal groups and were provided physical therapy plus a placebo visceral treatment or a visceral treatment in addition to physical therapy. The authors propose that there may be long-term benefits of including visceral therapy in rehabilitation approaches.

If you would like to learn more about visceral techniques as well as theory and clinical application, check out the schedules for Ramona Horton's Visceral Mobilization 1 (VM1): The Urologic System, and Visceral Mobilization 2 (VM2): The Reproductive System. The first opportunity to take VM1 is in November in Salt Lake City and VM2 is scheduled in September in Ohio.

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The Value of Botox for Defecation Dysfunction

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In patients who failed to respond to biofeedback therapy alone for anismus, authors in this study reported a beneficial, although temporary, effect of using botulinum toxin type A injection (BTX-A injection) to the puborectalis and external sphincter muscles. Anismus is more commonly referred to as dyssynergic defecation, or an inability to properly lengthen the pelvic floor muscles during emptying of the bowels. 31 patients who had been treated with and failed "simple biofeedback training" were then treated with BTX-A injection followed by biofeedback training. 18 males and 13 females with a mean age of 50 and a mean duration of constipation of 5.6 years were diagnosed with defecation dysfunction, or anismus. Diagnosis of animus was made using anorectal manometry, balloon expulsion test, surface electromyography (EMG) of the pelvic floor, and defecography.

Pelvic floor muscle training included biofeedback therapy consisting of intra-anal surface EMG and electrotherapy (although the way the methods are described make determining if both EMG and electrotherapy were completed with internal sensors difficult). Treatment occurred 1-2 times/day for 30 minutes per session (15 minutes of electrotherapy and 15 minutes of biofeedback). Frequency of the electrotherapy was 10 Mz, 10 seconds of "considerable sensation without…pain" and 10 seconds of rest. During biofeedback sessions, pelvic muscle strengthening and relaxation was also instructed. Therapy occurred for up to one month, and patients were instructed to continue with therapeutic exercises at home. The researchers followed up one month after the injection and therapy, and 6-12 months after intervention by telephone.

The subjects in this study suffered from difficult and incomplete evacuation, use of laxatives, and chronic straining during defecation. The repeated measures for diagnostic criteria that were completed after intervention found improvements in the subjects' resting anal canal pressures and with the balloon expulsion test and constipation scoring system. The authors also reported adverse effects of BTX-A injections including fecal incontinence. Conclusions of the article include that the botox injections were considered a temporary treatment for defecation dysfunction, whereas the botox injection combined with pelvic floor biofeedback training is "a more valid way to treat."

What is missing from this study? Manual therapy, muscle coordination retraining in combination with abdominal wall activation, and functional training related to positioning. While the authors suggest that injections should be used with biofeedback training, the potential negative effects of botox injections cannot be overlooked. Infection, pain, and bleeding are complications that have been highlighted in the literature, and in this study, fecal incontinence (although reported as mild) occurred. The research design appears to fail to recognize the chronic tension and holding pattern of the pelvic floor muscles, and unless the goal of repeated contractions is to elicit a contract/relax effect, the pelvic floor strengthening per se does not align with the ideal therapeutic goal, which should be to correct the dyssynergic pattern of defecation. Relaxing the pelvic floor muscles is not the same as a functional bearing down or lengthening of the pelvic floor involved in defecation. If you are interested in learning more about training defecation patterns and pelvic muscle rehabilitation for bowel dysfunction, check out Pelvic Floor Level 2A (PF2A) which discusses in detail fecal incontinence, constipation, and other colorectal conditions. The next opportunity to take this course is in Wisconsin in March. If you have already taken PF2A, you might find a course focused on Bowel Pathology, Function, Dysfunction & the Pelvic Floor, with the next course taking place in Kansas City in April.

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Scientists Discover Protein for Diagnosing Crohn's Disease

Scientists at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth reported the detection of a protein, Pellino3 that may stop Crohn's disease from developing. The Irish Times article, University breakthrough in fight against Crohn's disease, described the benefit as diagnostic: [Researchers] will now use the protein as a basis for new diagnostic for Crohn's and as a target in designing drugs to treat the illness.

Researchers noticed that levels of Pellino3 are dramatically reduced in Crohn's disease patients. Prof. Paul Moynagh, who led the researchers, believes that identifying Pellino3s role in Crohn's disease may lead to better treatments for other inflammatory bowel diseases.

In the United States, more than a half-million people suffer from Crohn's disease and more than a million suffer from some type of inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms often include abdominal pain and diarrhea. These symptoms are often debilitating and even life-threatening. There is neither a known cause nor cure for Crohn's disease.

Therapy has been known as one of the few treatments that can reduce symptoms and even lead to remission.

Hopefully, this discovery will lead to further advancements in treating Crohn's disease: The findings by Prof Moynagh and his team have the potential to impact positively on many lives.

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Treating Ulcerative Colitis: Generic vs. Brand-Name Medicine

Erin Matlock, who struggles with ulcerative colitis, one day opened her Delzicol capsule to find her pervious medication inside.

The Bulletin, a newspaper in Central Oregon, published a piece about Matlock?s change in medication titled, ?Blocking generics.?? This piece examines the financial benefits pharmaceutical companies gain from patenting new prescriptions just before they face competition from generic manufacturers: ?With no new clinical trials, the company secured an expedited review from the FDA and got Delzicol approved six months before Asacol was due to go off-patent. ?By pulling Asacol from the market, they could get doctors to begin writing prescriptions for Delzicol and patients established on it well before a generic Asacol arrived.?

For years, Matlock took Asacol to help treat her condition.? Until it stopped being manufactured.? Her doctor told her about a new prescription from the same manufacturer called Delzicol.? Now she has the choice between taking twelve Delzicol pills (which she finds more difficult to digest) a day and spending $25 a month or taking four Apriso pills (another mesalamine-based medicine) a day while paying $125 dollars a month.

Matlock?s struggles are not uncommon.? Many patients who suffer from ulcerative colitis require medication, and even surgery, to treat their symptoms.

Although there is no known cure, correctly applied therapy has been known to markedly reduce symptoms and even lead to long-term remission.

Herman & Wallace offered their first on Bowel Pathology and Function in Stony Brook, NY last April and is in the midst of confirming dates for another course in 2014.? Keep a look out for updates!

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Soccer Star Struggles with Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis (UC) dramatically effects a patient’s livelihood.  UC is often confused with Crohn’s Disease, another major inflammatory bowel disease.  While they do differ in origin, both diseases share similar symptoms, such as blood in a patient’s stool.  Furthermore, like Crohn’s Disease, UC tends to affect young people (those between the ages of fifteen and thirty).

Chronic and often severe, UC has no known cure and, in rare cases, can even be life-threatening to the patient.

The Daily Mail posted a news article about Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher, who recently underwent his third surgery for UC.  Over the last few years, Fletcher has frequently struggled to stay fit.  He has played just thirteen games since December 2011.

Multiple surgeries, as in Fletcher’s case, are not uncommon.  UC spreads and deeply infects the lining of a patient’s colon and rectum.  Although there is no known cure, correctly applied therapy has been known to markedly reduce symptoms and even lead to long-term remission.

Herman & Wallace offered their first on Bowel Pathology and Function in Stony Brook, NY last month and is in the midst of confirming dates for another course in 2014.  Keep a look out for updates!

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Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Houston, TX

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Texas Children’s Hospital

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Garden City, NY Satellite Course (SOLD OUT)

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Metro Physical & Aquatic Therapy

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - West Norriton, PA Satellite Location (SOLD OUT)

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Self-Hosted (SOLD OUT)

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Self-Hosted Course

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Kenosha, WI Satellite Course (SOLD OUT)

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Aurora Health Care

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Self-Hosted

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Self-Hosted Course

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Self-Hosted (SOLD OUT)

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Self-Hosted Course

Pelvic Floor Capstone - St George, UT Satellite Location

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Dixie State University

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Manchester, IA Satellite Location

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Physical Therapy Solutions

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Houston, TX Satellite Course (SOLD OUT)

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Texas Children’s Hospital

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Charlottesville, VA Satellite Location (SOLD OUT)

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Cranford, NJ Satellite Location

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Alexandria, VA Satellite Location

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Inova Physical Therapy Center

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Brooklyn, NY Satellite Location

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: PT of the City

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Tacoma, WA Satellite Location

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Olympic Sports and Spine

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - San Diego, CA Satellite Course

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Water and Sports Physical Therapy Clinics

Peripartum Advanced Topics - Remote Course

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Asheville, NC Satellite Location

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Cornerstone Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Truckee, CA Satellite Location

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Tahoe Forest Center for Health and Sports Performance / Alliance Therapy Partners

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Jacksonville, FL Satellite Location

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Summit Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Hinsdale, IL Satellite Location (SOLD OUT)

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Capstone - San Diego, CA Satellite Location (SOLD OUT)

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: FunctionSmart Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Marietta, GA Satellite Location

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: Southern Pelvic Health

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - New York City, NY Satellite Location (SOLD OUT)

Apr 24, 2021 - Apr 25, 2021
Location: KNOSIS Center for Physiotherapy & Wellness

Male Pelvic Floor - Brooklyn, NY Satellite Location

Apr 25, 2021 - Apr 26, 2021
Location: ODA Primary Health Care Network

Male Pelvic Floor - Self-Hosted

Apr 25, 2021 - Apr 26, 2021
Location: Self-Hosted Course

Bowel Pathology and Function - Remote Course

Apr 30, 2021 - May 1, 2021
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Urinary System - Self-Hosted

Apr 30, 2021 - May 2, 2021
Location: Self-Hosted Course

Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Urinary System - Torrance, CA Satellite Location

Apr 30, 2021 - May 2, 2021
Location: Women's Advantage Inc